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California Commission On Drug Policy and Violence

California Senate - Committee on Public Safety
Senator John Vasconcellos, Chair
Bill SB 1261, introduced by Senator Tom Hayden

As Amended April 12, 1999 - Hearing date: April 13, 1999

Support: Family Council on Drug Awareness; Human Rights and The Drug War Project; California NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), November Coalition

Opposition: None known

Key Issues: Should A Commission on Drug Policy And Violence Be Established In State Government?

Should the legislature commission the University of California and the California State University to conduct studies on drug policy and violence?

Purpose: The purpose of this bill is to establish, within state government, a Commission on Drug Policy to examine the levels of personal, social and official violence associated with the proliferation of drugs.

This bill would establish, within state government, a Commission on Drug Policy with various specified duties.

This bill requests that the University of California undertake a report for the Commission on Drug Policy and Violence and the State Legislature that summarizes existing research and makes recommendations on those issues.

This bill also provides that the Legislature shall contract with a recognized entity at the California State University specializing in research on gang and violence reduction and the relationship between drugs, violence and inner city gangs to undertake a report for the commission and the Legislature.

This bill makes several legislative findings and declarations.


1. Need for This Bill

Since the War on Drugs began in the 1980's, the general level of drug use in our nation has not changed. What has changed is the level of violence created by the drug war and the tripling rate of drug offenders in prison. Since 1985, the nation's jail and prison system has grown 130%. California leads the nation in imprisonment, spending more than $4 billion dollars a year to operate the nation's largest prison system. Viable alternatives to imprisonment of drug offenders must be studied and findings are needed to shape future public policy. This measure attempts to assess whether current drug policies contribute to levels of violence and whether there are alternative policies that reduce violence.

2. Findings and Declarations

The economic benefits of illegal drug production and distribution are an incentive for traffickers and dealers who utilize violence as a means of establishing market control.

This activity, and its associated violence, is widespread in California communities and correctional institutions.

Efforts to suppress and contain this illegal drug production, distribution, and use have led to an unprecedented expansion of law enforcement and a military war on drug cartels, resulting in further levels of violence.

The state has a public safety interest in assessing the violence associated with the illegal drug trade and official policies of suppression, and whether there are viable alternatives that can reduce or prevent violence without expanding illegal drug consumption.

The state has specific interest in expanding drug treatment on community levels and within the correctional system.

The state has a further interest in assessing the degree to which gang-related violence impacting innocent persons, law enforcement personnel, or gang members whether in communities or correctional facilities is directly associated with the drug trade, and what alternatives may exist which can reduce or prevent such violence.

3. Membership of the Commission on Drug Policy and Violence

The Commission on Drug Policy and Violence shall consist of an unspecified number of members to be appointed by the Attorney General, Governor, Speaker of the Assembly and Senate Rules Committee.

All commissioners shall have demonstrated experience or expertise in juvenile or gang-related crime and violence.

4. Duties of the Commission

The Commission would be required to assess the level and kinds of violence incurred under present state and national drug policies, focusing primarily on California, including analysis on the following for the years 1980 to 2000:

(a) Drug-related incidents of violence reported in California, 1980-2000, by fatalities and injuries requiring hospitalization;

(b) Arrests, judicial proceedings, convictions and incarceration for drug-related offenses in California;

(c) Rates of drug- or gang-related inmate violence in California Youth Authority facilities, county jails, and state prisons;

(d) Incidents of police shootings in drug-related confrontations in California, including prison shootings;

(e) Estimated rates of crime in California, including violent crime, motivated or associated with drug addiction sales or possession;

(f) Estimated percentage of law enforcement resources dedicated to anti-drug efforts in California, and number of fatalities or injuries to drug enforcement personnel in drug related;

(g) An analysis of the impacts on California of violence related to drug trafficking in Mexico and Latin America, including United States efforts at drug suppression;

(h) Projections of total drug-related violence in California by the year 2020 under a status quo scenario;

(i) Whether or not existing drug suppression efforts will be successful in reducing the levels of violence associated with the illegal production, distribution and sale of drugs; and

(j) Whether or not there are alternative policies, such as increased drug treatment, which would reduce drug related violence and would be cost-effective.

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